I'm reading an absolutely excellent book called "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell. The subtitle is "The Story of Success." While I haven't finished it yet, it has already piqued my interest and engaged me in incredible ways. The book centers around many statistics and stories about how people become successful. One thing that struck me in particular is the idea that practice and natural skill are not all that is needed for one to be successful - one also needs to have opportunities and circumstances that lead to success.
Jarrod and I often talk about how miraculous it is that we even started dating. We met in 2006 through a mutual friend. He came to a party at my house. I was totally not interested in him. I made him my facebook friend and told him it was the best decision of his life. He became very close friends with my best friend. I was dating someone else. I came to seminary and we overlapped one year. He used to sleep in the arm chairs in the library while I studied across the room. I was single. He moved to Louisiana. I was worried about going to our mutual friend's wedding so I sent him a facebook message. He was working at a church I visited many times in my previous life as a youth minister. We made a connection on facebook. We were forced to pair off at the wedding because we hung with a crew that was all paired off also. I was impulsive and took the huge risk of driving to Louisiana the weekend after the wedding because I was about to spend a month in Puerto Rico and needed to find out of this was something worth pursuing. It was and we became "facebook official." I went to Puerto Rico for a month where we cultivated our relationship on the phone. After I came back, I flew to Louisiana to see Jarrod. Hurricane Gustav hit. We evacuated for 16 hours in his little truck. And the rest is history.
I know that all relationships are like this, but seeing this all written out, it becomes very clear to me that Jarrod and I met, fell in love, and got married thanks to very specific circumstances. Without facebook, the timing of our mutual friend's wedding, his move to Slidell (to work at a church I knew well and because it made messaging him easier!), our incredible evacuation, my impromptu drive to Louisiana, the timing of my trip to Puerto Rico... All of those things had to happen when they did so that we could fall in love. We were both completely secure and happy in our own lives - that helped in the falling-in-love story as well.
Life is a series of circumstances that help shape who we become. For a good portion of my life I would focus on the doors closing - opportunities that didn't happen. Jobs that ended badly or jobs that didn't happen at all. What is the purpose of my degree? What am I going to do with my life? Is life just a series of searching for the way?
Our new associate pastor preached a sermon on Sunday that resonated in me. She shared a story about Parker Palmer, who was trying, praying, listening, and remaining still, tried as all good Quakers do in hopes of discerning God’s path for him. "Have faith," the Quakers say, "and way will open." He met much frustration in "finding way" and went to a Quaker saint and confessed his difficulty. She replied: "I’m a birthright Friend [what we call Quakers] and in sixty-plus years of living, way has never opened in front of me. . . . But a lot of way has closed behind me, and that’s had the same guiding effect." (Palmer, Let Your Life Speak, p. 38.)
I recently turned down a job that I think I would have loved. I think it would have been a great fit with my skills, experience, and what I want from life. The job could have been a great way to grow my career, shape lives, and share the love of Christ. Why did I turn it down? It wasn't my way. The way closed behind me and even though it was at my choosing, I still stood at the closed door banging.
...Until I was hit over the head with the book I'm reading and God through Pastor Lane's sermon. Like Parker Palmer, I do not know which way is mine. But I see ways that have closed behind me and have led me to the life that I am so blessed to live right now. Ways closed and created the perfect set of circumstances for Jarrod and I to fall in love. Ways closed and created my life in Slidell. Ways will close and help me to determine what my career is and how I am going to change the world.